President Trump gave Attorney General William Barr expansive new power to conduct his review of the origins of the Russia probe and what he’s characterized as “spying” on Trump’s 2016 campaign by the intelligence community, The New York Times reported.
Trump issued a directive on Thursday ordering the CIA and all other intelligence agencies to cooperate with Barr’s probe. He also gave Barr the authority to declassify any of those agencies’ records, a significant break from precedent, according to the Times. An official told the Times that Barr is interested in reviewing the CIA’s work in Russia in 2016, specifically who their informants were at the time and what they communicated to the agency about Russian meddling efforts.
Despite Trump’s obvious interest in the attorney general’s review, Barr has said he arrived at his “spying” characterization on his own and has said Trump did not ask him to review the origins of the probe that Trump has called a “witch hunt” for the past year and a half.
Barr appointed a United States attorney in Connecticut to lead the review efforts, but he has also met personally with top officials at each intelligence agency to discuss that the review is a “top priority,” in the Times’ words.